I am pretty much the dad in this Staples commercial:

I love, love, love back to school time. I always have. I was the kid grabbing the store ads when they started coming in my parents’ Sunday papers in August and circling which binder I wanted, where I’d go for sneakers, and squealing over the awesome sales on pens. My parents were the ones rolling their eyes. I loved back-to-school time. And I still do.

However, did you know all those great sales are useful for more than just shopping for school supplies? True story!

I’ve discovered that at least with young kids, it just doesn’t pay to go crazy stocking up on clothes in their current size in August. I did this last year before preschool started because the sales were so great, and my then 3 year old outgrew pretty much all of it before Christmas. I found myself doing it all again…minus the great sales. Plus, the weather through the end of September is often still pretty warm…so they’re still wearing the short sleeved shirts from summer with maybe a couple of new pairs of jeans. Can you buy ahead in bigger sizes for the year? Of course. But there’s so much more you can do with the sales that will save you even more money.

So what do I buy when I hit the August sales? Let me tell you:

1. Summer clothes for the kids for next year, usually at around 70% off or better. I’ve gotten pretty good at predicting sizes. Two recent finds from Target:

2. Gifts for goody bags. I like to include non-food items in party goody bags for the kids since they’ve just finished having cake and ice cream and who knows what else. When crayons are .25 cents a pack, stock up! You can over-estimate the amount if you’re worried and either keep them (because you can never have enough crayons), or donate them to your child’s classroom. You can also find fun pencils, erasers, and notepads for amazing prices now.

3. Decorating a tee shirt is, thankfully, not something we only enjoyed in the 80s. Buy plain white tee shirts for your kids to decorate either as a party craft or just as a rainy day project. I just bought seven white tees for $6.96…less than $1 each.

4. Some stores offer huge bulk packages of snacks like granola bars, juice boxes, etc. for discounted prices now. Check the expiration dates and stock up!

5. Thanks to all those lucky kids going back to the dorms (man, I miss those days sometimes…), you can find storage bins, organizers, and label makers for great prices now. Take advantage and tackle your closets and your kids’ rooms.

6. And finally, don’t forget yourself! Watch those coupons, and take some time to go through your own clothing. Those sales on jeans don’t have to be just for the students! 😉

Happy Back-to-School shopping, everyone!

(Oh– and don’t forget…next week is tax-free week in CT, meaning any clothing purchase normally subject to the 6.35% state sales tax, under $300, is not taxed!)

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